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Bilingual children faster at switching tasks

New Delhi, Wed, 04 Apr 2012 NI Wire

A recent study says that, bilingual children switch their tasks fast in comparison to those speaking only one language.

In addition to that, the study also revealed that bilinguals are slower in remembering vocabulary than monolinguals as they divide their time between two languages while the latter focus on only one.

The test was done on 104 children by the Raluca Barac and Ellen Bialystok of York University, Toronto in Canada. The test result was then compared on the basis of English-speaking monolinguals to those of Chinese-English bilinguals, French-English bilinguals and Spanish-English bilinguals.

Both the groups were told to press a computer key as they viewed a series of images -- either of animals or of depictions of colours, the journal Child Development reported.

The responses for both the categories were limited as the children responded at the same speed. But when the children from both the groups were asked to switch, from animals to a colour, and press a different button for the new category, the children of bilingual category were faster at making the change than that of monolinguals, said a university statement.

Researchers used this test as a parameter of mental processes known as executive functioning, commonly defined as the ability to pay attention, plan, organise and strategise.

"In the simplest terms, the switching task is an indicator of the ability to multi-task," said Peggy McCardle, chief of the Child Development and Behaviour Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which provided funding for the study.

"Bilinguals have two sets of language rules in mind, and their brains apparently are wired to toggle back and forth between them depending on the circumstances," said McCardle.

-With inputs from IANS.

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